A Guide to Safe Shopping This Holiday Season

Increasingly, Americans are going online to prepare for the holidays, whether it's shopping, shipping or sending out cards. But don't let convenience get in the way of safety Here are some tips to k...
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A Guide to Safe Shopping This Holiday Season

by News Editor on December 10th, 2014 in Security Tips.

Increasingly, Americans are going online to prepare for the holidays, whether it's shopping, shipping or sending out cards. But don't let convenience get in the way of safety

Here are some tips to keep you, your money and your information, safe from cyber criminals.

Beware package notices. Online shopping means lots of shipping. Most sites will update you with package shipping and delivery information. But they reach out to ask for your credentials to check on your package. An email with a link to click that goes straight to the UPS or FedEx websites is fine. Careful of links that go to some other site. And you're always better off going to the shipping site yourself and typing in the tracking number.

Phone facts.
Your bank will never call and ask you to give them your account information. But scammers do. They call pretending to be a "security agent" and say that your account's been compromised. To fix it, they ask you to provide them with personal information, often including the account password. Don't give it to them. Call your bank back (not on a number they give you) and ask them to confirm.

Pay attention to the Wi-Fi that you use. It's tempting to make use of free Wi-Fi when you're out and about, but be cautious. Sometimes it's the store but sometimes it's cybercriminals providing the service. When in doubt, check and make sure the Wi-Fi really is set up by the business you're in.

Check your card. If you can, use one credit card for all your online purchases, so you can easily see if there are charges for items you didn't buy. You'd be surprised how many people don't actually go through their credit card statement each month. January and February are the months to do it, as any unscrupulous charges will show up on those bills. You can't dispute a charge if you didn't notice it was there, so check.

Passwords. Yes, we know changing your passwords is a hassle. And yet you should change them before and after the holidays, in case it turns out that one of the sites you shopped on was compromised. That will protect your account should bad guys come calling.

Chancy Charities.
Many organizations make a pitch for end-of-year giving around now. Scammers know this and send out emails from fictitious groups to hop on the bandwagon. Do your homework. Check the group's website as well as sites such as Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and the BBB Wide Giving Alliance to confirm it's for real.

Digital delights. Electronic holiday cards are increasingly popular. But if you send them, make sure you choose a well-known site. Scammers sometimes set up malware-ridden sites that can infect not only your computer, but the computers of the friends and family you send to.
Some additional tips from National Cyber Security Alliance to protect yourself against cybercrimes

  • KEEP A CLEAN MACHINE by making sure your security software, operating system and web browser are up to date.

    WHEN IN DOUBT THROW IT OUT. Don’t click on any links or open attachments unless you trust the source.
  • MAKE YOUR PASSWORDS long and strong and unique. Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password. Use a different password for each account.
  • SET YOUR BROWSER SECURITY HIGH enough to detect unauthorized downloads.
  • USE A POP-UP BLOCKER (the links in pop-up ads are notorious sources of malware).
  • BACK UP YOUR DATA REGULARLY (just in case your computer crashes).
  • PROTECT ALL DEVICES that connect to the Internet. Along with computers, smart phones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices also need protection from malware.
  • MAKE SURE ALL MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY follow these safety tips (one infected computer on a home network can infect other computers).

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